Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10 a.m. Dec. 3 with comments from Sen. Tim Kaine.
Members of Virginia’s congressional delegation on Thursday asked for President Joe Biden’s support as the state appeals a federal decision denying financial help to Buchanan County residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by flooding and mudslides in August.
“To ensure a fulsome recovery for this community, we urge your full and fair consideration of Virginia’s appeal for Individual Assistance for our constituents in and around Hurley,” Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, and Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, wrote in a letter to Biden.
More than 7 inches of rain fell on parts of the community of Hurley on Aug. 30, destroying dozens of homes and damaging many others. One person died. (Read our previous coverage here.)
Recent estimates pegged the value of the properties that were affected at more than $5.7 million, although county officials warned that the tally was likely to rise as more assessments were completed.
Many of the affected homeowners did not have flood insurance, and even those who did soon discovered that their policies were unlikely to cover much of the damage, particularly the destruction caused by mudslides.
While Buchanan County will receive federal assistance to help pay for infrastructure repairs and cleanup, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the state’s request for financial help for individual homeowners.
PBS show set in Danville nominated for regional Emmy
The PBS show that brings famous musicians to Danville has been nominated for a Capital Emmy award.
“The Life of a Musician,” created by Danville resident Brandon Adams, features famous acoustic artists in historic locations around the city.
The first of the show’s two seasons is a contender in the “Interview/Discussion” category.
“There couldn’t be people who are more shocked than us,” Adams said about the nomination, adding that his team never considered the possibility of winning an award when they created the show.
Adams said he’s especially proud of the nomination because of its category.
“The fact that they felt like the conversation and the content of those conversations, along with the music, was worthy of recognition, that makes me happy,” he said. “At the end of the day, they thought it’s a good conversation. There’s good content here. It’s not just throwaway TV.”
In most episodes of the show, Adams converses with a famous musician, and then the two play a few songs together. In a few episodes, which Adams calls house concerts, the musician plays a live show in an intimate setting with no question-and-answer portion.
Featured musicians have included John Jorgenson, guitarist for Sting, Elton John and Bob Dylan, who appeared in the first season, and Redd Volkaert, lead guitarist for Merle Haggard’s band The Strangers, who appeared in the second season.
Episodes have been filmed in locations across the city and have featured featured local businesses like The Dog-Eared Page, a downtown bookstore, as well as historic homes.
Adams said the nomination is still surreal, and he’s trying not to focus on it too much.
“I’m still just mowing my lawn and petting my cat,” he said. “Pretending like it isn’t happening. … If we get submitted for a nomination for season two, I’ll take it seriously.”
— Grace Mamon
In a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam, a FEMA official wrote that the impact of the disaster “was not of such severity and magnitude” to warrant the assistance.
Local officials, who worked with the state to appeal the decision, have said that FEMA’s decision-making process is opaque, and several speculated that rural areas like Buchanan County are at a disadvantage when assessments of severity are made because fewer homes are affected than in more populated regions.
Kaine on Friday said it’s not uncommon in his experience to see FEMA grant a major disaster declaration, which opens up assistance for local governments, but not provide individual assistance.
He thinks such decisions are probably based on either the agency’s assessment of the amounts of individual damage or the number of people who were affected.
“But just because it’s not widespread affecting tens of thousands of people doesn’t mean it is not catastrophic for a smaller group of people,” Kaine said. “I’m glad that Governor Northam has initiated the appeal, and obviously Senator Warner and Congressman Griffith and I are very glad to support it.”
Even if FEMA help does come through, the most any homeowner could receive is $36,000, and most awards are much smaller, local officials have said.
To help fill the gap left by FEMA and insurance denials, local efforts have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, and scores of volunteers from across the state have worked to rebuild any homes that can be salvaged.
In Thursday’s letter to Biden, Griffith, Kaine and Warner noted that FEMA funds could help pay for “temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured property losses, and other critical needs.”
“The unlocking of IA [Individual Assistance] for the residents of Hurley would go a long way towards helping this community recover from this extreme weather event.”
Staff writer Markus Schmidt contributed information to this story.